The Municipal Archives of Colmar, un vrai cauchemar
Finding Early French Mennonites of Vosges and Haut-Rhin

The Departmental Archives of Haut-Rhin

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Oh, this is a tough one, Dear Readers, a very tough one, indeed, and through no fault of the expert archivists and their extremely busy staff. It is merely that the collections held here are from such a jumbled history of different languages and traditions, different provenance, and different administrative structures that they are difficult for anyone to sort out and use.

Certainly, they are the toughest that we have ever yet attempted. It took us a day to manage to find our way just a bit through the finding aids, which are only the first step. This, though the archives have produced numerous explanations as to how to use them. In some case, one must use four different finding aids, each referring to another, to find the code for a carton. This is because archives must be stored in the sense in which they were created; only a fool would rearrange them according to his or her modern idea of order. (We have witnessed such chaos but, thankfully, not here.)

The staff were generous with their time in helping all users to find their way, but it was often difficult for them too. In one instance, we had managed to use the finding aids successfully and had a list of codes for cartons to request, yet we could not get the system to accept those codes. We asked for help. It took the archivist, asking all the others present thirty minutes of trying various possibilities before he had success. This is not incompetence, we assure you; this is extreme complexity. Later, in conversation with other users, all agreed that the finding aids and the archives were the most complex and difficult that we had ever encountered.
 

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The interior is modern and very accommodating. The exterior needs a bit of work, shall we say. There are oddities that indicate an amateur architect did the new inside: a glass door to the Reading Room that bangs loudly, motion sensors for lights that are placed incorrectly.  These are minor details.

Instead of proper lockers, there are small, open cubicles for one's belongings, such as we called "cubbies" all those years ago in kindergarden. In fact, there is a general air of authoritarianism and elementary school about the structure. Outrageously loud buzzers go off fifteen minutes before closing time; failing that, an assistant bellows that we must prepare to leave. The entire service closes for an hour at lunch time. This is the only Departmental Archives where we have encountered this closure, and it is a significant loss of research time.

We think we may have come across the cause of the hysteria found in the municipal archives about photographs.

 

Booklet

Key articles in this document state that one must request permission to take photographs of documents (this is the same as in most archives). However, the permission to photograph is not permission to publish.

 

Reutilisation

The sentence in bold makes it very clear that the permission to photograph is not permission to publish. Additionally:

 

And more

It does not in any way grant the photographer copyright of the contents of the image. Presumably, similar rulings, with similar draconian wording,  apply in the Municipal Archives of Colmar.

In such a difficult situation, this is where you see the value of the tremendous volunteer work done by genealogy associations. There are, on shelves, dozens of bound volumes of extracts of parish and civil registrations, sorted by town and then type and name. In this case, they are those done by the Association Généalogique et héraldique du Val de Lièpvre et Environs  but they contain more than is on the website or that has been put on Filae by the same. They are a wonderful aid, though they do not exist for every single town yet.

The archivists here deserve medals for heroism and expertise. They seem to be understaffed and yet are constantly available to answer the innumerable questions necessary. We really are very grateful to them and extend our thanks here.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

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